High School Graduation Rates Still Increasing

| Tue Jan. 22, 2013 8:52 AM PST

A few days ago I mentioned that high school graduation rates were up, and suggested that reduced exposure to lead might be part of the reason. Today, the Department of Education announced that the upward trend has continued:

Based on data collected from the states for the Class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 78 percent of students across the country earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. The graduation rate was last at that level in 1974, officials said.

....Notable in 2010 was the rise in the percentage of Hispanic students who graduate on time, with a 10-point jump over the past five years, to 71.4 percent. Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group, making up more than 50 million people, or about 16.5 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

....Graduation rates improved for every race and ethnicity in 2010, but gaps among racial groups persist. Asian students had the highest graduation rate, with 93 percent of students finishing high school on time. White students followed with an 83 percent graduation rate, American Indians and Alaska Natives with 69.1 percent and African Americans with 66.1 percent.

I know it's easy to sound Pollyannaish about this stuff, but the evidence of the last few decades suggests that standardized test scores are up; international comparisons are in pretty good shape; and that high school completion rates are up. This doesn't mean that we can declare victory, or that America's schools are paragons of educational excellence. There's plenty of room for improvement.

At the same time, the conventional narrative of steady decline just doesn't seem to be true. Especially when you consider the size and diversity of America's primary education system, our results are decent and getting better. The data on this score is clear enough that this really needs to become the new conventional narrative.

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